OK so that title’s probably a lie. Almost definitely, in fact. In a city as mahoosive and FULL of history and culture and fun as Rome, there’s no set way to make the most of your time. Unless you have y’know, several months spare or something (I wish). And if The Perfect Rome Plan did exist, I wouldn’t yet know it. This gal is not an expert.
One thing I do know however, is that I left Rome feeling like I’d filled my 3 days to the brim with sightseeing, meeting new people, walking, and eating. With a hell of a lot of learning (and excessive numbers of photos taken). It was only a snippet of what Rome has to offer, but a taster that would have me on a plane back out in an instant.
I was lucky enough to have the people at Roma Experience Tours plan lots of activities for me, so I certainly made the most of a 3 day trip. Whilst I’m a big fan of the ‘turn up and figure it out later’ approach to exploring new cities, I don’t think that’s the best approach to Rome! Having tours and places to be planned out in advance cut the wasted time right down, and that’s never a bad thing. Can’t tell you how much time and hassle I saved by doing it this way. Well, I can, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Kind of. Plan for this one is a run down of the tours I did and places I visited, in a bid to be semi informative with my own wafflings thrown in there for good measure. I’ll save my accommodation for another post shortly because I can already tell this one’s gonna be a whopper!
The Colosseum seems like a good place to start! It’s probably the first thing that springs to mind whenever Rome is mentioned anyway. Despite that I still managed to be surprised by how big it was, but whatever.
I enjoyed all the tours, but if I was pushed to choose, the Colosseum would definitely my favourite. No offence, Vatican! I’m really glad I did the morning version too – a) morning light is dreamyyyy, and b) the crowds aren’t as cray cray at that time.
This is gonna be a bit of a running theme, but one of the main perks to all these tours was NO QUEUEING. Hallelujah for that. How nice it is to have your guide prebook everything and just whizz through the entrance! Especially when you see the queues you’re missing out on. Of course the other main perk is having a guide with seemingly infinite knowledge about every brick of the building (both in its current state and 2000 years ago) to clue you in. Vincenzo, our guide for the Colosseum tour, couldn’t have been more helpful. Sometimes being bombarded with a bajillion facts can get a bit much, but when all of the guides gave just the right amount of facts and cool stories to be interesting yet not overwhelming.
Now would you just look at that. Was able to fully indulge my symmetry obsessed self in this place! I still don’t think photos show the real scale of it though.
Being with a group tour meant we had a set time to go on stage and perform (or y’know, just look around), and a set time to head up to the top platform and go underground – it isn’t quite as leisurely as going at your own pace, but definitely provides the best viewpoints. Bonus that nowhere is too crowded either because it’s planned out carefully.
Another recurring theme here – group tours are THE BEST place for meeting new people. I was technically alone but felt like I hardly spent any of my trip going solo! It’s just so easy to get talking to people and before you know it you’re telling your life stories and going for lunch together. (Hi Brock and Emily if you’re reading!)
Tbh I don’t think I’d have known where to start with an itinerary for Rome if I hadn’t had it planned out for me, and I’d definitely have missed some of what turned out to be my favourite spots! The view from Palatine Hill was just all kinds of heart-eye-emoji inducing. Love me a panorama shot.
Naturally I wore tight black jeans on what turned out to be the hottest day too. Smooth Lily, smooth!
Rione Monti / Taverna Romana
Probably seems a bit random to go straight from grand architecture to food but I thought I’d list this one here due to its proximity to the area.
Not only was Vincenzo a fabby guide during the tour, he was fabby afterwards too and pointed us in the directions of good local places for lunch (I say pointed us in the direction… I mean walked us there because we’d have probably got lost) and continued a mini tour of the surrounding area. Someone / a blog post must have already recommended Taverna Romana to me as it was saved as a little star on my Google Maps already (every city I’ve been to is covered in stars on my Google Maps and I quite like it!), so on hearing a second recommendation we knew it must be good. My taste buds were not disappointed. It’s tucked up a little side street only a short walk away from the end of the tour at the Forum, but was pretty quiet when we arrived at 12:30 opening time. Tucked up a photogenic side street at that.
Of course I loved life and went for a big ol’ bowl of pasta. Carbonara will never taste the same again.
In case you hadn’t guessed, a hell of a lot of walking happened on this trip! So worth it though. For this tour my lovely guide Valentina gave me a whistle stop tour of the hotspots and the stories behind them, including the scandals (of which there were many). Since I was travelling alone I wouldn’t have felt particularly inclined to explore at night by myself but missing out on seeing the sights lit up in darkness would have been a real shame!
Ever seen those ‘expectation vs reality’ photos of tourist attracions? They usually involve a pretty picture of a monument sans tourists, then the reality of the heaving crowds surrounding it. Safe to say the Trevi fountain was one of those! So busy you needed to literally pounce to get a spot on the wall, but oh so stunning. SO beautiful/impressive/I’m running out of adjectives. Could’ve easily sat and gawped for quite a while had there not been a queue of people after the same spot.
And here lies ancient Twitter. ‘Talking statues’ for people to leave anonymous messages about designated topics. This one was the political talking point. Now my Italian isn’t great, but I could pick out a Trump rant or two lol.
So yeah, this tour took me around all the different squares and important places, as well as some hidden away ‘secret’ ones too. I probably would’t have found them all as it’s not the easiest city to navigate (aside from the fact that the landmarks are pretty damn huge), so thanks Valentina!
No monument is done on the small round these parts. This one’s the Vittorio Emanuele Monument but I prefer its nicknames of the Typewriter or the Wedding Cake.
The only tour I don’t have photos of but forgive me considering it was underground! The Domus Aurea was something completely different and a real insight into the ancient world of Rome. Showed just how much the ground level of the city has fluctuated over the years, which was evident in the Forum too. Apparently improving the city’s metro network is a nightmare because they’re always coming across a new archaelogical site to dig, like this one! It was Emperor Nero’s ‘Golden House’ and wowee he must have been one rich and powerful man. Pretty cool that whilst you’re inside the renovation there’s a virtual reality cinema too. Hearing information about the history is all well and good but actually seeing it as if you’re there is another experience! The Domus Aurea tour usually comes as part of a longer tour including the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, but since I was to be visiting those on another day I only joined in with this part.
When in Rome (surprised I’ve made it this far without bringing that one out) one must tick another country off the list of course. Country/independent state/whatever. Never mind the technicalities, Vatican City is stunning either way! I’m not religious so it didn’t hold that kind of meaning for me but that certainly didn’t detract from the experience.
For the Vatican I’d 100% absolutely definitely recommend prebooking a tour, because those queues were crazyyy. Not only do you have an informative, social experience once you’re in there but you bypass hours of standing aroud too. If you’re anything like me, standing around makes your back ache way more than a full day of walking ever does, so I was v v thankful to avoid that. Can only imagine what it’s like to be in that queue in midsummer heat. Book yo tickets people! Also means you won’t be tempted to buy from the millions (give or take a few) of people trying to persuade you to buy fast pass tickets, so that’s a win. As soon as I saw anyone approaching me for this (or to sell me a bloody selfie stick) I just shook my head and continued walking. Not gonna lie, I’ve never seen tourist hassling quite like it. Stride right on through!
Mandatory gelato was acquired.
I won’t pretend to have retained even half the facts that our great guide Beatrice relayed (shall point you in the direction of this Vatican tour info instead) but I will say that the Vatican Museums is an experience like no other. Really bringing out the cliches in this post aren’t I?
Told you the people make the experience! Shoutout to Violet from New Jersey, the sassiest coolest 3 year old I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. You were the star of the show. So fun to meet you all!
Post tour refuel was much needed. I seriously wish every pizza you picked up on the way home could taste this good! This was just from a random little shop I can’t remember the name of on my walk back from the Vatican. I’d caught the bus across the city (I stayed very near the Colosseum) to the Vatican earlier but wasn’t the biggest fan of Roman public transport so decided just to walk back instead. Once you were on them the buses were perfectly fine – just quite confusing figuring out which one to catch and from where! I was told ancient Romans were more organised and efficient than modern ones and I’m inclined to believe that’s true haha. So yeah, public transport isn’t Rome’s strongest point but it has more than enough points to its name to make up for it!
Firstly, it tickled me a bit that we casually arranged the Colosseum as a meeting point before heading out, as you do. Slightly more glam naming one of the wonders of the world as your meeting point rather than the train station car park.
An evening out in Trastevere was highly recommended, so thanks Davide for showing me around! We ate at Grazia & Graziella, which had a really good atmosphere to eat out even on a Monday night. Apparently it’s absolutely buzzing on a weekend evening nearer summer, which I can easily imagine. I think this was the perfect time of year for a Rome trip though – pleasantly warmer than the UK but not boiling or heaving with too many people.
I would consider myself the arty type, although not necessarily an art geek. Either way, you can’t help but be impressed and in awe of this one seeing the work of the greats in real life! Such a beautiful location in both the park and gallery.
Bernini wins the title of Lily’s fave. Just how it’s possible to carve such realistic shapes and curves into marble with a chisel I do not know!
Passeggiata del Pincio
Oh my last evening in Rome was a good’en. We stopped by the Passeggiata del Pincio viewpoint on the way back – as did everyone else and their mother but that just added to the experience. It was kind of comical how desperate everyone was for that sunset pic! Sadly we were a couple of minutes late ourselves, but the view was still drool worthy anyway (albeit slightly hearbreaking for this self confessed sunset addict).
And that brings this epic writeup to a close! If you’re wondering why no mention of where I stayed, then fear not that is all to come. I’m aware that this one’s pretty tour heavy too – I didn’t have much time for browsing shops or exploring others districts, but in a city as rich in history as Rome it’s not really the main priority anyway. Perfect reason for a return visit if you ask me. Hopefully I’ve suceeded in convincing you that tours are absolutely the way to go when it comes to making the most of a trip to Rome, and I can’t thank Roma Experience Tours enough for having me!
Anyway, ciao for now,
Lily Kate x
My tours were complimentary through Roma Experience tours, but all opinions and enthusiasm are my own.